The governments of Portugal and Spain today reached an agreement, in Guarda, on a common border development strategy for the coming years, which was the center of the 31st Portuguese-Spanish Summit.
The Common Strategy for Transboundary Development (ECDT) was the highlight of the Iberian meeting and is presented as a set of measures and investments to “make life easier for people living on the border”, as pointed out by the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa.
Alongside the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, the Portuguese chief executive highlighted some of the benefits foreseen for the inhabitants of the border, such as the status of cross-border workers, the health card that allows treatment on both sides of the border or cooperation between public services, as in the case of the 112 network, which will respond in the emergency to those who are better able to do so.
The Recovery and Resilience Plan of each country should incorporate the priorities of this strategy which will also seek funding in Brussels, with the Portuguese Prime Minister underlining that, this time, the two countries will not be separated to negotiate with Brussels, but in set.
The Strategy covers 1,551 Portuguese parishes, an area corresponding to 62% of the Portuguese territory and benefits more than one million and six hundred thousand Portuguese.
On the Spanish side, it includes 1,231 municipalities and 3.3 million inhabitants of the municipalities in the border provinces of Badajoz, Cáceres, Huelva, Ourense, Pontevedra, Salamanca and Zamora, corresponding to 17% of the surface of Spain.
In total, in Portugal and Spain, this Strategy will directly serve more than five million people, along one of Europe’s largest borders.
The objective of ECDT is, according to the Minister for Territorial Cohesion, Ana Abrunhosa, to “put the interior of the country at the center of the Iberian market, to create a new economic centrality and reduce the abandonment of these territories”.
The purpose is to improve services to the population, creating conditions for the development of innovative common projects, which value the resources of the border territories and make them more attractive for living, working and investing.
Completing the network of road connections between the two countries is one of the purposes of the joint strategy, which contemplates the construction of the IP2 connection between Bragança and Puebla de Sanabria, Moraleja-Monfortinho-Castelo Branco, joining the EX-A1 with the A23 through IC-31, Vilar Formoso-Fuentes de Oñoro, connection from A25 to A62 (Castilla motorway), the highway between Zamora and A4 / E82, in Quintanilha (Bragança), and the connection from IC5 Miranda do Douro to Zamora by Sayago .
The construction of the new bridge between Sanlucar del Guadiana and Alcoutim and the international bridge over the River Sever between Cedillo and Nisa are also planned.
Rail transport is also contemplated with the modernization of the Beira Alta line from Fuentes de Oñoro / Salamanca, the Elvas-Badajoz Logistics platform, the Covilhã / Guarda section, the Viana do Castelo / Valença section, and the connection of the Portuguese-Spanish Atlantic axis , which includes Lisbon, Porto, Vigo, Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña.
The two governments also propose to speed up the construction of the Lisbon-Sines-Poceirão-Évora-Badajoz-Cáceres-Madrid high-performance line.
Among the measures envisaged is also the creation of the figure of the cross-border worker to facilitate the movement of these citizens without constraints such as those observed when the borders were imposed at the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.
The two countries also want greater coordination in basic services, such as Health, Education, Social Services and Civil Protection, to enhance the sharing of new or existing services, in order to better serve the citizens of both countries.
ECDT provides, for example, the 112 cross-border, which will allow the user access to the nearest emergency services, be they Portuguese or Spanish.
The strategy also aims to attract “new companies and investments to these territories, through innovative joint projects between the two countries”, in terms of agro-industry, agroforestry and renewable energies.